How Does Addiction Start?

How Does Addiction Start?

Addiction is a complicated and powerful disease, affecting millions across the United States. When and how it will affect someone is still being studied rigorously, but there are factors that help to shed light on this disease. Understanding this disease may be the first step towards you or a loved one seeking the help they deserve.

Addiction is a Brain Disease

Although studies are still being conducted in order to understand addiction better, it is considered a brain disease that requires treatment. Understanding how addiction affects the mind, can help to eliminate the stigma surrounding addiction and addiction treatment. This will help more people feel comfortable seeking the help that they deserve. Addiction can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including their mind and body. One of the organs that is directly affected by drug use is the brain.

The brain is a very delicate, yet powerful organ. Drug use causes the brain to send out signals abnormally. When a drug enters the body, a person may experience a “high”. This feeling is actually the brain’s reward system reacting unnaturally to the drug, causing dopamine levels to skyrocket. The brain seeks to mimic this same feeling, causing a person to seek more and more of the drug. In order to diagnose an addiction, a person needs to meet criteria just like any other illness. Addiction is defined by a physical and psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol, which can show in various forms.

The criteria that is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the DSM is what most healthcare professionals will use to assess an individual to determine if there is an addiction and the severity. These criteria usually include the person demonstrating a lack of control over their substance use, cravings, strained relationships, dangerous activity, and withdrawal symptoms when use is ceased.

Addiction Can Happen to Anyone

Addiction and a bad person are not synonymous. Oftentimes, a person struggling with addiction can feel isolated and unsupported. Labeling them as a “bad person” can further worsen the problem and lead them to feeling misunderstood. Addiction does not discriminate and can happen to anyone, regardless of life circumstances. Those who are around someone suffering the most will see the changes in their behavior firsthand. This may cause them to think their loved one is “changing”. While they should be held accountable for their actions, your loved one is suffering with a disease that causes immense brain changes.

There is no set timeline for addiction. Anyone can become addicted at any time. However, addiction usually forms over a period of time and during that time more than one use has taken place. The longer the addiction is present, the worse the symptoms usually are. But, all symptoms can be life threatening.

Risk Factors for Developing an Addiction

While addiction can happen to anyone, there are risk factors that may make you more susceptible to developing the disease. Genes actually play a large role in the likelihood that someone may develop a substance use disorder, nearly accounting for 50% of a person’s risk. If someone is also struggling from a mental health disorder, their risk also heightens. This could be due to self-medicating. This means the person is using the drug in order to help “treat” their mental health disorder, although some mental issues can fly under the radar but still influence drug use.

Young adults are also at an increased risk for developing a substance use disorder. One of the biggest factors of influence that can cause this is peer pressure. Young adults are still in a development phase and are shifting into their independence. This can make this time in their lives confusing and stressful. They may have intense desires to fit in. This makes young adults susceptible to peer pressure, which can come in many forms. It is important to stress to young people the dangers of drug use and how it will impact their goals for the future.

Addiction and Dependence

Addiction and dependence are not the same thing. However, they are often used incorrectly interchangeably. While certain factors overlap, they are not entirely the same thing and it is important to understand the difference.

When someone develops a dependence, this means a physical tolerance has formed to a substance. This person may experience withdrawal symptoms if this substance is ceased. Dependence can be associated with caffeine use and medications, as well as drugs and alcohol. Dependence can happen alongside addiction, but does not constitute addiction in and of itself. Addiction is defined by lack of control over stopping a drug, strained relationships, not meeting obligations, and withdrawal. Addiction causes changes to both the mind and body. While they are not the same, physical dependence can lead to addiction.

Warning Signs of Addiction

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, it is important that symptoms are recognized sooner rather than later. This can help you decide on your next course of action to help your loved one get on the road to recovery, by seeking treatment. Although the warning signs of addiction may be difficult to spot, there are some signs you can watch for.

Warning signs to watch for include issues at work, becoming isolated, gaining a new friend group, and abnormal sleeping patterns. A person may also begin being very secretive and not tell you new information about themselves. You may notice they are asking for more money lately or have even told you a lie. Their behavior may have noticeable differences, such as mood changes or erratic actions.

Getting Treatment for Addiction

No one plans to develop an addiction. If you or someone you love is suffering, recovery is never out of reach. There is always hope to reach a path dedicated towards sobriety.

Arizona Addiction Recovery Center recognizes that everyone is an individual and deserves unique treatment plans. That is why their professionals will take their patients through evaluations that will help set them up not only for addiction recovery, but also life in general. Call today to learn more about their treatment programs.